Leaning In

I just finished reading the highly controversial book “Lean In” by Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg. Prior to reading the book itself, I read many reviews about the book and even more commentary about the author herself. With so much chatter, of course I had to read it.

After reading it, I’ll tell you that I am grateful that she is taking the stance that she is, that she is using her position and her power to bring to a light a very obvious, and yet, difficult issue in the business world today- the lack of female leaders. I will also say that like any other human, young or old, male or female, junior or senior, I don’t believe she has all the answers. There were pages where I wanted to call her directly and thank her, and then there were pages and topics and advice that frankly, I found cringe-worthy. But she is human. Right? She cannot possibly have all the right answers to an age-old problem. But rather than focusing on what’s wrong with her perspective on a problem that frankly most people aren’t even brave enough to discuss, I think it’s most important to realize that she is making the right effort. She is stirring up conversation on a problem that desperately needs to be addressed and eventually resolved.

So with that said- I will highlight some of the quotes and points that I found most interesting…and hopefully they will pique your interest enough to read this book- whether you are in fact, a Howard or a Heidi.


Chapter 1: The Leadership Ambition Gap

“ There’s no doubt that women have the skills to lead in the workplace. Girls are increasingly outperforming boys in the classroom, earning about 57% of the undergraduate and 60% of the master’s degrees in the United States. (However) career progression often depends upon taking risks and advocating for oneself- traits that girls are often discouraged from exhibiting…”

“About 41% of mothers are primary breadwinners and earn the majority of their family’s earnings. Another 23% are co-breadwinners…The number of women supporting families on their own is increasing quickly: between 1973 and 2006, the proportion of families headed by a single mother grew from 1 out of 10 to 1 out of 5.”

And yet, “our country lags considerably behind others in efforts to help parents take care of their children and stay in the workforce…” ‘Women are not thinking about having it all, they’re worried about losing it all- their jobs, their children’s health, their families’ financial stability- because of the regular conflicts that arise between being a good employee and a responsible parent.”


Chapter 2: Sit At The Table

“This phenomenon of capable people being plagued by self-doubt has a name- the impostor syndrome. Both men and women are susceptible, but women tend to experience it more intensely and be more limited by it”…Tina Fey has admitted to these feelings, “vacillating between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of ‘I’m a fraud! Oh my God, they’re on to me!’”

But the difference is that “multiple studies in multiple industries show that women often judge their own performance as worse than it actually is, while men judge their performance as better than it actually is…”


Chapter 3: Success and Likeability (I am intentionally leaving this one out, as it is the chapter where I threw up in my mouth a little.)


Chapter 8: Make your Partner a Real Partner

“According to the most recent analysis, when a husband and wife are both employed full-time, the mother does 40% more child care and about 30% more housework than the father.”

So what does this lead to, you might be asking yourself?

“In a 2007 study of well-educated professional women who left the paid workforce, 60% cited their husbands as a critical factor in their decision. These women specifically listed their husbands’ lack of participation in child care and other domestic tasks and the expectation that wives should be the ones to cut back on employment as reasons for quitting.”


Chapter 9: The Myth of Doing it All (This was, perhaps, my favorite chapter, as I have the most earmarked pages here. Or perhaps it was simply one that was most relevant to me where I am right now…)

“HAVING IT ALL. Perhaps the greatest trap ever set for women was the coining of this phrase. I have never met a woman, or man, who has stated emphatically, ‘Yes, I have it all.’ Because no matter what any of us has – and how grateful we are for what we have – no one has it all.”

She then goes on to provide a few tips, including:

–       Don’t worry about the things that simply don’t matter

–       Leave the guilt at the door

–       Create your boundaries and stick to them

–       Be realistic

Another point that she makes, via a quote from General Colin Powell’s latest book, is that the business world is increasingly realizing that the evaluation of any individual’s performance should be about output, not input.

Powell says: “In every senior job I’ve had I’ve tried to create an environment of professionalism and the very highest standards. When it was necessary to get a job done, I expected my subordinates to work around the clock. When that was not necessary, I wanted them to work normal hours, go home at a decent time, play with the kids, enjoy family and friends, read a novel, clear their heads, daydream and refresh themselves. I wanted them to have a life outside of the office. I am paying them for the quality of their work, not for the hours they work. That kind of environment has always produced the best results for me.”


Chapter 11: Working Together Toward Equality

While Sandberg cites many problems via stats, and primary and secondary experiences, in her final chapter, her effort is focused on sharing her vision for the future, and how we can begin to fix the lack of female leadership in the business world.

“Together we can do this. If we push hard now, this next wave can be the last wave. In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders. I believe women can lead more in the workplace. I believe men can contribute more in the home. And I believe this will create a better world, one where half our institutions are run by women and half our homes are run by men…”


The Sam Bennett Summary:

I learned a lot reading this book- both about the realities of leadership in the business world right now- as well as about myself. If you don’t know me, you should know that while I am very passionate about my job, being surrounded by smart people that push me, and finding fulfillment and success in my career, I am a wife and a mom. And I love being a wife and a mom. If you pictured a feminist in your mind- it is highly doubtful that you would visualize someone like me…and maybe that’s way I don’t really relate to that label.

But I do believe that there are barriers- whether real or made up- that exist for women in the workplace. As of 2013, there are only 18 female chief executives throughout the Fortune 500, and that is a record high. So my hope is that we can all work hard to minimize and then remove them altogether. Because I believe that capability and merit are truly the thing that should be considered when it comes to career progression and leadership.

And I also should say (while I’m taking a moment to write my manifesto on my company’s blog- ha) that I am thankful to be married to a successful AND supportive man, and that I work for a company that fully believes in equality in leadership, and proves that in the fact that many of the C-level positions at GSD&M are filled by women.

So that’s it for a while. Hope you will think about it.

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